Preparations underway for launch of Narrow Band-IoT forum

Leading mobile operators and OEMs throw their weight behind development of NB-IoT technology for low power, wide area network applications; pre-commercial deployment is expected during the second half of 2016, with commercial roll-out from early in 2017

Preparations underway for launch of Narrow Band-IoT forum

A new forum devoted to supporting the development of Narrow Band Internet of Things (NB-IoT) solutions is in the works following a preparatory event chaired by Vodafone.

The aim of the new industry forum is to accelerate the ecosystem around NB-IoT technology, which is being seen as one solution for providing low-power wide area networks (LPWAN) for IoT applications using mobile operator licensed cellular spectrum, in-band, guard band and stand-alone deployments.

Most LPWAN solutions available to date use unlicensed spectrum, while current 2G, 3G and 4G licensed cellular solutions are too expensive, too power hungry and too expensive for many IoT applications.

Among the member companies looking to lay the foundations for the new industry forum are China Mobile, China Unicom, Ericsson, Etisalat, the GSMA, GTI, Huawei, Intel, LG Uplus, Nokia, Qualcomm Incorporated, Telecom Italia, Telefonica and Vodafone.

The NB-IoT forum will bring together all of the industry and ecosystem partners in a way which helps deliver NB-IoT to the market as quickly as possible. The forum will be hosted within an existing industry level organisation.

NB-IoT solutions are being proposed as an alternative licensed cellular solution to the LTE-MTC (machine type communications). The LTE-MTC approach involves adapting 4G LTE, a high power, high throughput technology, to make it suitable for low power, low throughput, low cost IoT applications. LTE-MTC is in standards development with industry standards body 3GPP.

NB-IoT (originally called the Cellular Internet of Things) has also entered standards work in 3GPP. It is also one of the systems in the GSMA’s Mobile IoT Programme, which is promoting industry-wide alignment and engaging with early adopter customers.

The new NB-IoT technology is designed to provide deep coverage of hard to reach places, supporting a massive number of low throughput, ultra-low cost devices, with low device power consumption and optimised network architecture.

In a blog published today, Luke Ibbetson, Vodafone Group Director, Research & Development, said that Vodafone is leading the development of the NB-IoT radio interface, which will be dedicated to connecting LPWA services.

NB-IoT will reuse an existing radio access network and transmission while at the same time will deploy a separate dedicated and optimised core network (using the latest virtual network technology).

The NB-IoT forum aims to:

• facilitate demonstrations and proof of concept trials which strengthen the NB-IoT solution to meet LPWA requirements
• lead partners to build a strong end-to-end industry chain for NB-IoT future growth and development
• drive and proliferate NB-IoT applications in vertical markets for new business opportunities
• promote collaboration between all NB-IoT industry partners to ensure interoperability of solutions.

China Mobile, Etisalat, LG Uplus, Shanghai Unicom, Telecom Italia and Vodafone also used the occasion of the meeting to announce their support for the creation of six new NB-IoT open labs worldwide, which will focus on NB-IoT new service innovation, industry development, interoperability tests and product compliance certification.

It is expected that these labs and others will form a key part of the NB-IoT forum initiative. New use cases and business models will be explored in these open labs, and results will be shared with the whole industry.

Customer pilots using pre-NB-IoT technology are already underway. Pre-commercial deployment is expected during the second half of 2016, with commercial roll-out from early in 2017. The NB-IoT forum and the open labs will help to drive the development of the NB-IoT industry to the next stage.

The detailed scope, format and objectives of the forum will now be worked on, with membership extended to further companies in future.

See also:
In search of the low-power wide area network standard for IoT

Nokia Networks calls for greater co-operation over IoT standards


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